For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Psytec Games Ltd. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Crystal Rift is a dungeon crawler game, brought to you by the team behind Windlands. Dungeon crawler games were very popular back in the 80’s and 90’s, but over the years have slowly died down in popularity. So, does Crystal Rift open the door for the genre to return?
Firstly I would like to point out the game doesn’t really have a story per-say, it has more of a goal. That goal being find the exit. The game gives you 24 floors/levels to clear on the way to your escape, however, this is easier said than done. Each floor will throw a number of puzzles, traps and enemies at you to try and halt your escape – the game does include a 25th floor, but this is just a means to the end, and there is not much for you to do. Also, during navigating the floors you will find a number of notes that offer a sort of story, but are more to explain where you are within the dungeon.
As mentioned previously, the game throws puzzles and enemies at you on each floor to make up the gameplay. The puzzles will vary difficulty, and can also be made a lot harder by no inclusion of a mini map, as some of the floors can seem vast in size – add to it similar textures and it can be hard to navigate. There isn’t much variation in the puzzles, as it is all pull levers, and find keys or crystals that match the colour of the door in order to progress. But, where this might seem an issue to some people, this is what dungeon crawlers of the past were all about. One thing I wasn’t to keen on was the easy nature of the enemies; which were very simple to take down on normal. With 99% of the enemies attacks being easy read and dodged, which was helped by the games control system.
On that note, lets move on the control system. For me this was one the games main charms, it can be frustrating at first or in some cases later, but they grow on you. The team at Psytec have put together a very unorthodox control method, which makes it a lot more accessible in VR. Firstly, they made the game in a first person view (all you see is your sword), and then implemented a grid based system for moving. So, basically there is an invisible grid across the whole of the floors, meaning your only options are moving box to box. Where this is easily controlled while walking, and using the right analogue to turn 45 degrees at a time, this is made a lot harder when running, as the turn will be disabled. Other than the box to box movement, you will use ‘X’ as an action button, and L2 to change your sword damage type, and R2 to strike and enemy or hold it for a charged attack. As mention in the gameplay the control system makes it easy then fighting enemies, as you can easily dodge the attacks by changing to a different grid.
Graphically I would say Crystal Rift is a bit under-par for the Playstation 4 and other games that are available on the Playstation VR already – but as with the gameplay, it sort of adds to the charm of the fact you are playing dungeon crawler, and its what they used to be. You will find that most of the floors are made up of the same wall texture, but sometimes there is an added variant; for example roots and crystals. But, you would have maybe hoped for more of a variety in texture for the floors, with the amount of floors they have made available on the game.
Again, it seems like Psytec have gone out of their way to make the comfort for the players essential. As they did with Windlands, there is a number of options you can change in order to help relieve any discomfort that players might encounter. I found myself needing to activate some little line drawn cubes that float in front of you in order to relieve some that I was feeling – at first this did remove some of the immersion, but after a few floors these soon felt like they weren’t there.
Psytec have also made Crystal Rift available in None VR, although it is instantly evident this was initially made for VR. I did try out this mode, however, it just didn’t live up to playing the game in the dungeon yourself. One other issue I found outside of VR mode, was the sword was practically off screen, and it was also difficult to see when you were reaching ledges at times – which lead to a lot of unnecessary deaths.
Genre legends like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder have been used as inspiration for the Crystal Rift, and this is something they have been successful in bringing across to Crystal Rift. But, where this is done well it might not meet the tastes of a lot of today’s gamers. If you have the taste for an old school dungeon crawler and have invested in VR for £7.99, you cant go wrong.
Crystal Rift will take players through 24 floors of puzzles and enemies, with the aim of trying to stop your escape. With all the charm of 80’s and 90’s dungeon crawlers, paired with a control scheme you will grow to love. But, the heavy influence of the early dungeon crawlers means it might not appeal to the current generation.